Chapecoense play out 2-2 draw in comeback

Chapeco (Brazil), Jan 22 (IANS) A renewed Chapecoense played out a 2-2 draw against Brazilian champions Palmeiras in the first game since a plane crash in November in Colombia killed most of its footballers.

Tears were shed before the match here on Saturday at Arena Conda Stadium by families and friends of the victims of the accident which ended the dreams of a club that had unexpectedly reached the final of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana tournament, reports Efe.

Jackson Follman, the goalkeeper who survived the tragedy, went in a wheelchair onto the field where he had seen his club jump from the fourth division series to the first in just seven years.

Follman and two other players who survived the accident – Helio Hermito Neto and Alan Ruschel – raised above their heads the Copa Sudamericana trophy, which had been awarded to the club at the request of Atletico Nacional, their opponents in the Copa Sudamericana final.

Chapecoense showed personality, strength and nerve on Saturday in holding their own against the current Brazilian champions, the last team it played before boarding the fatal flight to the Colombian city of Medellin.

Douglas Grolli and Amaral scored for Chapecoense while Veiga and Vitinho put Palmeiras on the scoreboard.

Fans had occupied the stands in numbers to encourage the renovated team. Chapecoense signed up 23 players for the squad with an average age of 24, with 14 of them younger than age 25, and promoted 11 players from the youth team.

Wearing their team’s traditional green and white jersey, fans shouted “We are all Chape,” the same phrase the team members chanted in the dressing room when they qualified for the Copa Sudamericana final. It has now become the team’s slogan.